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Question: What Does It Cost?


Answer: It’s up to you!


     We always do our best to make our amazing live music as special, practical, attainable, and affordable as possible for everyone.


     Informing us what amount you are prepared to spend is the most direct way for us to calculate an estimate for you. We truly believe everyone should get to experience high caliber music entertainment such as ours. To make this possible we have made ourselves very flexible to accommodate almost any budget.


     Nearly every client who contacts us asks what our price is before all other questions, but without providing us any details about their event. Many bands can respond with a flat rate because they are smaller and more singularly focused on certain styles of music and don't have the multitude of options we can provide.


     The Matt McCallie Orchestra is the most flexible band in St. Louis. Our repertoire is so massive we literally have enough music to play for days without repeating any songs. Additionally, we have the largest, most varied instrumentation of any local band and can bring anywhere from a soloist to dozens of musicians.


     If you can provide a predetermined entertainment budget, either an exact number or a range, it is easier to present you with options appropriate for your event. Our Event Form has a budget section where you can select from various price ranges or input your own exact amount.


     Looking to compare costs between our bands and others? We have an article with many links and prices to help you determine the budget and features that will best serve your needs.


Here is what is factored into our pricing:


Styles of music to be performed:


     Big band swing requires a lot of instruments. For a truly authentic sound you need 18 to 20 something instruments. A minimum of 9 can cover this style but a minimum of 11 is recommended. Adding strings adds even more realism and depth to the sound, more alike the original recordings by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick, Jr., Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett.


-Motown can sound authentic with a medium sized band from 9-13 instruments.


-Pop and rock music can be as small as a 4 piece but sound great with 5 to 7 musicians.


-Jazz combos are a popular option for cocktail hours and dinner music. A jazz trio or quartet sounds classy and offers a quiet background ambiance that adds a touch of sophisticated elegance without breaking the bank.


-Solo piano or a singing guitar player can also cover a broad variety of music and accomplish a great deal when hiring a skilled musician.


Band Sizing:


     Once the styles of music being performed are determined we have some flexibility with the size of the band as indicated above. Most wedding receptions require light jazz during cocktail and dinner hours, traditional big band swing to start the dancing, and upbeat contemporary dance music approaching the twilight of the evening. Every song may not require an entire big band, but songs in each section can make use of all of our possible instrumentations.


     Professional musicians used to not even walk out their door for a gig that would pay less than $250 per musician. Given our current economy most clients are unable to hire a couple dozen musicians at that price. Also, given the size of a band required to authentically perform most swing music musicians don’t make near what they used to. It is an unfortunate reality for musicians. Jazz musicians are among the most skilled in their field, able to sight read very complex music and improvise solos on a gig, usually having studied and practiced their instruments through many years of school and likely having at least one college degree in music. They have devoted their life to excellence at their craft and are passionate about what they do. Their abilities have long since surpassed mere talent. They have skill.


     For most events we try to pay our musicians an amount that will match union rates. Not only are musicians usually performing almost 4 hours, they are likely also driving as many as 4 hours to get there and spend 2 or 3 hours setting up the stage and another hour or two packing up afterward. They will have also spent many hours in rehearsals. Just for one wedding each musician is likely putting in about 8 hours that single wedding day alone.


     Ultimately the cost of hiring our band comes down to the number of musicians you can afford. We do our best to reduce travel costs by carpooling and to reduce the number of musicians by booking musicians who play multiple instruments instead of having to hire extras.


     We prefer to perform with as large an ensemble as possible; main reason being the music sounds best with all of the intended instruments. No other GB band in the area offers this unique presentation. We like to include as many of our members for each performance as possible also because we simply enjoy each other’s company and playing together. We always do our best to make our great music as practical, attainable, and affordable as possible for everyone.


     When there are challenging logistics such as limited scheduling, advanced planning time, parking, load in, and setup variables, we then expand our crew of roadies. All of our roadies have different skills but most require we pay them for the duration from setup start to teardown end since it is highly unlikely they can book any other jobs in the interrum. Knowing how many roadies we will need to hire is one of the reasons our event form goes into such detail before we accept any payments to reserve a date.


Location:


     Our band is willing to travel provided we cover our expenses including getting to and from the gig. We frequently perform on both sides of the Mississippi River in Missouri and Illinois. As our band develops a larger following we look forward to someday arranging tours nationally and overseas.


     We do our utmost to carpool to and from gigs but we also have a lot of equipment to pack in terms of instruments, lighting, sound system, and gear. Mobility is not a problem with logistic foresight. When entertaining larger events and venues, or as a larger band we are well prepared with a custom built trailer that very efficiently organizes and stores all of our sound and lighting systems.


     Venues are all unique. The more we can know about the venue’s size, acoustics, stage area, dance floor, and access from parking to the stage for transporting our equipment, the better. We also have to prepare differently for outdoor performances with longer extension cables to power our electronics and precautions against wind and other elements. Rain, snow, mud, or direct sun can ruin our equipment and instruments so if there is precipitation some sort of shelter is required. Electronics and moisture are always a combination to be avoided.


     If we are providing music for both your wedding ceremony and reception we’ll need to plan ahead in regards to what sound system requirements will be needed in each location and how much time will be allotted to transport our personnel and equipment to the next location. It is possible to use entirely different personnel and equipment for each performance. Differences in prices will vary according to finding the most efficient method to accomplish the move.


Seasons:


     Some times of year are busier than others and that can change regionally and year to year. Wedding season in St. Louis is busiest from May through September. Generally the holiday season has higher prices due to the sizes of the parties and the busyness of everyone's schedules. Expect to pay the highest rates on holidays like New Year's Eve and July 4th at Indepence Day Celebrations.


     Off-peak months can often reap monetary saving for weddings from most types of vendors. Splendor otherwise unaffordable can become reality. The hours can also influence pricing if a musician’s day job is affected or an entire night’s sleep is being allotted for the performance and travel.


Duration:


     How long you would like the band to perform is another price factor. Because there is usually at least an hour of travel to the performance location and time involved hauling in and setting up equipment, duration beyond a couple hours and up to 4 hours is of minimal impact. Performing over 4 hours becomes an endurance factor for musicians, particularly vocalists and horn players. This may require additional musicians to take over, especially if the music is particularly challenging. An analogy would be the early days of the postal service when riders would switch to a fresh horse at each station.


     Something to bare in mind is that rarely do concerts last longer than 2-3 hours when you go to a big show, or even a musical. Wedding and corporate bands often play twice the length of the professionals used for other types of events.


     If a smaller jazz or rock combo is only required for a short duration our setup time is decreased and therefore our prices are much lower. For example our string quartet requires no amplification for most performances so we are able to offer exceptionally competitive rates starting at $500 for up to an hour of music. Compare us to some string quartets charging in the $1,000 range for that duration.


Lighting:


     Lighting is one of our most popular options. We encourage all of our customers to employ at minimum a pair of LED effects lights. Most of the lights we use are slim par lights that draw little electricity and do not emit the heat traditional bulbs produce.


     Setup usually consists of mounting our lights on trusses at an above angle behind the band. This allows the lights to shine on the musicians on stage as well as the dance floor area without shining directly into anyone's eyes. We can also offer decorative uplighting and additional stage and dance floor lighting.


     Photographers typically prefer effects lighting at the reception. Pictures are greatly enhanced by the beautiful soft tones that create greater interest in each picture.


     We typically program our lights to change colors with the music as we play. Our lights have internal microphones enabling them to operate independently of a DMX controller for reduced setup and not requiring the employ of someone to run the lighting during our show. Upon request we can also provide lasers, gobos, and smoke. When setting up uplighting near the stage those also usually change with built in lights but when placed throughout a venue we usually set them to a static color.


DJ Music:


     Another one of our most popular options is to provide DJ break music. We typically do not provide an extra person to change simply songs and monitor levels. When our DJ break music is selected as an added option to our live band we offer this for a very nominal fee. One of the reasons we can do this for such a low price is that we do not use any turntables or complex gear beyond typical audio players such as a laptop or an iPad. We almost always use full CD quality audio files so that when played through our sound system, the tracks will be one of the most high quality recorded music listening experiences many guests will have experienced.


     Typically, the purpose is to have music playing continuously even when the band takes a break excpet for during speeches, toasts, and other types of announcements. Songs are usually programmed in advance.


     We are often asked if an mp3 player or iPod can be used. The answer is yes but it is not recommended. Our sound system is very high quality and will reproduce a very honest and accurate sound from any source plugged into it.


     Mp3 files are greatly reduced from their original quality. Most mp3s are roughly 5-10 MB whereas a direct reproduction of a CD recording at 44.1kHz as a WAV or AIFF file is typically 30-80 MB. Additionally, most mp3 playing devices are designed for tiny earbud speakers contributing to a lackluster sound quality when run through a professional P/A system. CDs are already greatly reduced in quality from live instruments so reducing that quality by half or greater will be noticeable, particularly after having just listened to a set from an amazing live band.


     If interested in providing your own music to be played by our DJ please visit our article on how to prepare your files. Please note that we usually do not provide a CD player on site so if you would like to send files to  be added to our DJ cue please do so well in advance.


Attire:


     007 style black and white tuxedos are the uniform of the gentlemen in The Matt McCallie Orchestra. Ladies usually wear what is referred to as “musician” or concert black in a similar dress, pantsuit, or gown.


     We can accommodate custom requests for different themes such as time periods or musical styles. For example upon request we have done an island theme wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts, an ugly sweater party, country, and Roaring Twenties Gatsby themes.


Song Requests:


     Song request fulfilment will vary by song. If the song is extremely popular and likely to be performed again at other events we have stronger incentive to learn the song in advance and therefore greater flexibility regarding pricing. The greatest variable is the complexity of the song and how much time it will take to transcribe and or write the arrangement. Each song that has been arranged by one of our band members takes a great deal of time. Some of our arrangements have taken years to complete, literally, just to finish a single song. What is usually involved is a combination of transcription and arranging.


     When we intentionally duplicate a recording of a song for which we cannot purchase music, we have to listen to the song and write down every note that every musician plays. After transcribing we then have to arrange the music by writing additional parts adapted for our band’s instrumentation.


     A minimum of 30 hours is typically required to arrange a song for our big band and over 80 hours can be consumed for some of our more detailed and complex charts. Music is written electronically and each musician has their own individual sheet music for their instrument and part.


     Much of the traditional vocal big band music is no longer in print and therefore unavailable for purchase. This is one reason we write so many of our own arrangements. Also, our orchestra has a strings section and there are very few big band transcriptions that include detailed parts for violins, violas, cellos, and basses, even though they were prevalent in the original recordings. Another reason we write our own arrangements is that as professional, well-educated musicians, we have brilliant ideas to breathe new life into popular songs. We now have excellent versions of great music that no other band has.


     Consider the differences between Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick, Jr., Dean Martin, Diana Krall, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Michael Bublé singing some of the same songs. We now have our own signature sound for classic songs unique to The Matt McCallie Orchestra.


     Big band charts that are still available in print average around $90-175 to purchase. Big band arrangements can sell for $300-$400 if by newer, well known artists. If there are songs that don’t require the instrumentation of our big band we can write different types of charts such as head charts and lead sheets. These charts require more practice and greater familiarity with the songs but can achieve excellent results with the right instrumentation.


     There are many sources for lead sheets online but most have many mistakes since they were written by amateur music hobbyists. Professional musicians do not typically publish lead sheets. Head charts and piano/vocal/guitar guides, yes. But even nearly every PVG chart has many errors and adaptations that are not true to the original recordings. This is mainly because they are what is called a piano reduction score, which tries to condense every instrument from the original recording into what a single musician can play on piano.


     Due to the amount of time and effort that goes into writing music for song requests it is preferable that these requests be solidified months in advance of the performance date. We have a tremendous, wonderful existing music library from which we first encourage finding your favorite songs. We want to make certain you get everything you want for your special day so we will write almost any popular music charts for your event. For more information on having us custom write an arrangement of your favorite songs please visit our Custom Song Arrangements article.